Google Search for: “Are you asking about Vice President Biden” = 3,890 results
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Vanity Fair, in a supposedly savvy media analysis that pinpoints what it thinks were McChrystal’s biggest mistakes, names the most tasteless, most absurd, and most damning quotes from Rolling Stone. No hint of anything that Chomsky would rightly call state terrorism.
If one were to look closely at the massive media coverage around the now infamous and notorious quotes emanating from U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and those of his aides, speaking to Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone, one should start to notice a pattern. It is a familiar one, an important statement of mainstream American ways of not seeing.
I have done my best to read, and watch, as much as possible of the media frenzy surrounding McChrystal’s remarks, and they tend to focus–when critical–on matters of insubordination, disrespect, and insults directed toward the Commander-in-Chief (President Obama)– “intimidated,” Vice President Biden– “bite me,” U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan-Pakistan Richard Holbrooke– “wounded animal,” U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry– “covers his flank,” National Security Adviser James Jones– “clown,” Afghan President Hamid Karzai– “asleep,” and a “fucking gay” dinner with an unnamed French Minister.
My first reaction was: big deal. Indeed, I commented hastily and angrily to some of those I respect the most, at Rethink Afghanistan, for their Facebook petition to get McChrystal to resign, calling it “damn stupid” and “superficial.” I regret that. This is an organization to which I have sent money, whose film I use in class, whose blog posts and videos have been endlessly instructive. While I still have reservations that McChrystal insulting Obama is an issue worthy of mass action, unless it is explicitly tied to demilitarizing politics and policy-making–this McChrystal is certainly not just a “tool,” a mere “instrument” of policy, the way some military people on this blog have innocently pleaded for Pentagon top brass–I do see the value in treating this story seriously. But we need a different take on matters. We need to note the silencing, the way media commentators have been trained in the art of looking the other way, missing what is plainly written and explicitly stated, and not asking questions.
SUPPORT THE TROOPS: The civilians are in their way!
Support the troops…really, was it so unpredictable that this narrative should be here too? Let’s see what Rolling Stone’s Michael Hastings told Newsweek yesterday in response to a question:
What’s the response from the military been? Do you think your access will be cut in the future?
The most interesting response has been, in Kandahar, and having more than one person come up to me and saying, “We heard about your story, and we like McChrystal, but the message needs to get out there that these restrictions he’s putting on the soldiers are no good.” So it’s actually been a positive response among the soldiers here.
Too many restrictions on the soldiers, they need more support and understanding. What restrictions? Here The New York Times‘ C. J. Chivers is quick to help, with yesterday’s article, “General Faces Unease Among His Own Troops, Too.” Apparently, McChrystal is blamed by the troops–that is, the regular ones used in his daytime war, the ones with whom media are embedded–that he has “made it much more difficult for troops to use airstrikes and artillery in the fight against the Taliban.” The troops complain, as summarized by Chivers: “Firefights often drag on, sometimes lasting hours, and costing lives. The United States’ material advantages are not robustly applied; troops are engaged in rifle-on-rifle fights on their enemy’s turf.” It’s really bad: “One Marine infantry lieutenant, during fighting in Marja this year, said he had all but stopped seeking air support while engaged in firefights.” More: “Young officers and enlisted soldiers and Marines, typically speaking on the condition of anonymity to protect their jobs, speak of ‘being handcuffed,’ of not being trusted by their bosses and of being asked to battle a canny and vicious insurgency ‘in a fair fight‘.” A fair fight–not being able to totally blow shit up–rifle versus rifle, when we were told the Taliban are “cowards” and rely exclusively on IEDs, here is a different admission. Check what I wrote here: “Those Cowardly Taliban” and “Protecting Civilians, Winning Hearts and Minds.”
The troops desperately want to kill, bomb, shell, to hell with any civilians caught in the crossfire. That’s the narrative we are not meant to hear. But when we get over Obama’s possibly hurt feelings, and matters of “insubordination,” we are meant to hear soldiers’ pleas for more firepower, because they are outmatched by the Taliban in a head on firefight…except we perhaps shouldn’t have heard that either. At the very most, we are dealing with daytime truths only.
McTERROR: We have shot an amazing number of people!
“We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat,” says top American commander.
People should read Rory O’Connor’s “Shocking Admission on Killing Civilians by Top US General Almost Completely Ignored by Corporate Media,” in AlterNet, published 31 March 2010. It points to the way the mainstream media, and apparently many of us along with it, have been successfully trained to look the other way.
Now read the following, from “The Runaway General,” by Michael Hastings, Rolling Stone, 22 June 2010:
❝It doesn’t hurt that McChrystal was also extremely successful as head of the Joint Special Operations Command, the elite forces that carry out the government’s darkest ops. During the Iraq surge, his team killed and captured thousands of insurgents, including Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq. “JSOC was a killing machine,” says Maj. Gen. Mayville, his chief of operations. McChrystal was also open to new ways of killing. He systematically mapped out terrorist networks, targeting specific insurgents and hunting them down – often with the help of cyberfreaks traditionally shunned by the military. “The Boss would find the 24-year-old kid with a nose ring, with some fucking brilliant degree from MIT, sitting in the corner with 16 computer monitors humming,” says a Special Forces commando who worked with McChrystal in Iraq and now serves on his staff in Kabul. “He’d say, ‘Hey – you fucking muscleheads couldn’t find lunch without help. You got to work together with these guys.’ ”❞
And pay special attention to this:
❝Even in his new role as America’s leading evangelist for counterinsurgency, McChrystal retains the deep-seated instincts of a terrorist hunter. To put pressure on the Taliban, he has upped the number of Special Forces units in Afghanistan from four to 19. “You better be out there hitting four or five targets tonight,” McChrystal will tell a Navy Seal he sees in the hallway at headquarters. Then he’ll add, “I’m going to have to scold you in the morning for it, though.” In fact, the general frequently finds himself apologizing for the disastrous consequences of counterinsurgency. In the first four months of this year, NATO forces killed some 90 civilians, up 76 percent from the same period in 2009 – a record that has created tremendous resentment among the very population that COIN theory is intent on winning over. In February, a Special Forces night raid ended in the deaths of two pregnant Afghan women and allegations of a cover-up, and in April, protests erupted in Kandahar after U.S. forces accidentally shot up a bus, killing five Afghans. “We’ve shot an amazing number of people,” McChrystal recently conceded.❞
There is the nighttime war, the shadow war, part of the other war being fought in Afghanistan, away from media embeds, emerging from far flung forward operating bases and camps, dropped in by helicopter, evading the light of day. Those many NATO and Pentagon photos in flickr, showing troops handing out candies to little kiddies in the villages, and vaccinating their little arms, and handing out food to villagers seated in rows in front of self-satisfied officers pretending to be Red Cross humanitarians–that is the side we are meant to see…which is why it’s all over flickr.
Only rarely do we hear of the nighttime terror visited on villagers by assassins in U.S. Special Forces and the CIA, such as in “Nato ‘covered up’ botched night raid in Afghanistan that killed five,” and “US forces ‘kill 8 children’ in night raid on village in Afghanistan.”
And here we read in Rolling Stone, that McChrystal himself has quadrupled the number of Special Forces units in Afghanistan, and he even tells one member to hit “four or five targets tonight.” What targets? Taliban targets? Al-Qaeda targets? If so, then why would McChrystal need to scold them in the morning? Because these units kill civilians, indiscriminately, with extreme brutality, and have even executed kids, possibly those who were vaccinated during the day by the pretend Santa Claus units. That is the real McTerror that the media slinks away from. So while we see thousands of pages already quoting the insult against Biden, we have only about 150 that contain the quote about hitting “targets” at night. So let’s talk about Obama’s hurt feelings, and let’s talk about Santa Claus.